BSV Forum - Writing - General Tips

Dialogue punctuation

Feb 02 2007 03:07 am   #1slaymesoftly

I think the punctuation errors about which, as both  a beta and a mod here at the BSV, I have to tell writers the most often are their speech tags; so I'm going to begin the writing mechanics with a lesson on punctuating dialogue.  

A speech or dialogue tag is the phrase that comes before or after a line of dialogue that tells you who is speaking.  The most basic speech tag is the simplest:

"I love you," Spike said.   or   Spike said, "I love you." 

You will see that even though Spike's words form a complete sentence, they end with a comma. That is the proper punctuation to put before something like Spike said.  When the phrases are turned around, the quote ends with a period (full-stop), because it is the end of a sentence.  The entire sentence is  "I love you," Spike said.   The period does not come until the end.  

If, for some reason, the speech tag does not begin with someone's name ("I love you," said the smiling vampire.), then the speech tag begins with a lower case letter.  If you accidently end the quote with a period instead of a comma, and if you have Word's automatic correction thing going on, then it will put a capital letter at the beginning of your speech tag.  (Bad Word, Bad!) You will have to watch for that and correct it manually.

Now, it gets trickier.  Suppose you want to end the quote with a question mark (?) or and exclamation point (!) ?  That's fine. You may do that (and should do that, if the character is asking a question or is excited); you will just need to be sure that you are still beginning the speech tag with a lower case letter (Word will not do this for you - it will want to put a capital letter there. Do not allow it! LOL)

And even tricker - "I love you, Buffy."  Spike smiled as he turned away.  One of the most common errors we see, is a quote that is not actually followed by a speech tag (said, asked, responded, answered, whispered, yelled, etc) but is treated as if it were.  If the words that follow (or precede) the quote do not indicate that an articulate sound has been made, chances are they do not constitute a speech tag.  The quote should end with a period and the following sentence will be a new sentence and will begin with a capital letter.  This is what we see so often:

"I love you, Buffy,"  he shrugged and turned away.   This is incorrect.  Shrugging is an action, not a speech tag.  "I love you, Buffy."  He shrugged and turned away.

Now, some words are open to interpretation.  He laughed, she sighed, he smirked - these are not technically speech tags, but I can see where they could be and wouldn't have a problem with their being treated as such. However - he nodded, she shook her head? Nope.  No sounds or speech involved there.

"I don't want to go, Spike." She shook her head firmly.  

See? Wasn't that easy?

 

 

I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.
Feb 02 2007 10:20 am   #2Caro Mio

Proper spacing really helps Word figure things out, too, like hitting the space bar twice between sentences, instead of only once. (Are there any plug-ins for making Word smarter, by the way?)

These lessons are a good idea, hon.

CM

What If I'm Not the Slayer? now updated with chapters 22 and 23.
Feb 06 2014 07:11 pm   #3slaymesoftly

Proper spacing really helps Word figure things out, too, like hitting the space bar twice between sentences, instead of only once. (Are there any plug-ins for making Word smarter, by the way?)

These lessons are a good idea, hon.

CM



Bumping this one up as it is still an issue for many people. 
(side note to CM, those two extra spaces that we were all taught to put between typed sentences are apparently now a big no no. I'm not sure what the reason is, but I've seen a lot about it lately on internet forums and punctuation sites.)
I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.
Feb 06 2014 10:30 pm   #4Spitfire

Bumping this one up as it is still an issue for many people. 
(side note to CM, those two extra spaces that we were all taught to put between typed sentences are apparently now a big no no. I'm not sure what the reason is, but I've seen a lot about it lately on internet forums and punctuation sites.)


My first time posting here, though I am a regular lurker. 

I was taught always to put two spaces between sentences, and was surprised to learn quite recently (on a British-based forum) that it isn't considered necessary anymore.  It wasn't expressed as 'a big no no' though, it seemed to be more a matter of choice.  I type two spaces without thinking now, and it would be annoying to have to unlearn that if I needed to in a formal setting.   

I would have thought that two spaces would help to make text easier on the eye, especially in chunky paragraphs, but hey - what do I know! 
Feb 06 2014 11:57 pm   #5slaymesoftly

Bumping this one up as it is still an issue for many people. 
(side note to CM, those two extra spaces that we were all taught to put between typed sentences are apparently now a big no no. I'm not sure what the reason is, but I've seen a lot about it lately on internet forums and punctuation sites.)


My first time posting here, though I am a regular lurker. 

I was taught always to put two spaces between sentences, and was surprised to learn quite recently (on a British-based forum) that it isn't considered necessary anymore.  It wasn't expressed as 'a big no no' though, it seemed to be more a matter of choice.  I type two spaces without thinking now, and it would be annoying to have to unlearn that if I needed to in a formal setting.   

I would have thought that two spaces would help to make text easier on the eye, especially in chunky paragraphs, but hey - what do I know! 


LOL I saw quite a discussion about this recently.  Apparently how much of a no-no it is depends on who you ask.  I want to say that Buzzfeed (?) hosted the original discussion, but I didn't see the whole thing, only the responses to it from people my age.  The Chicago Manual of Style recommends only one space at the end of a sentence. But it's a recommendation, not a rule. They suggest checking with the publisher (in the case of real world text uses).
I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.
Feb 10 2014 01:43 pm   #6DeepBlueJoy

Bumping this one up as it is still an issue for many people. 
(side note to CM, those two extra spaces that we were all taught to put between typed sentences are apparently now a big no no. I'm not sure what the reason is, but I've seen a lot about it lately on internet forums and punctuation sites.)


My first time posting here, though I am a regular lurker. 

I was taught always to put two spaces between sentences, and was surprised to learn quite recently (on a British-based forum) that it isn't considered necessary anymore.  It wasn't expressed as 'a big no no' though, it seemed to be more a matter of choice.  I type two spaces without thinking now, and it would be annoying to have to unlearn that if I needed to in a formal setting.   

I would have thought that two spaces would help to make text easier on the eye, especially in chunky paragraphs, but hey - what do I know! 


LOL I saw quite a discussion about this recently.  Apparently how much of a no-no it is depends on who you ask.  I want to say that Buzzfeed (?) hosted the original discussion, but I didn't see the whole thing, only the responses to it from people my age.  The Chicago Manual of Style recommends only one space at the end of a sentence. But it's a recommendation, not a rule. They suggest checking with the publisher (in the case of real world text uses).


Apparently, the reason for the change is that computer text is suppsedly easier to read that typewritten (on a typewriter) text and that the kerning supposed to be automatic. 

If you'd like to use 2 spaces automatically you can actually select it in word -- under grammar and style customization.  You can actually tell word to look for or ignore certain things if you look through the grammar and style list.  It's biased toward business writing on the whole, and not all of it plays well with fiction.  And of course, sometimes it's just stupid.  In one story it kept flagging 'foreman' (apparently sexist) but the character's NAME was foreman... I eventually went in and turned that off.  Still haven't figured out how to tell it that Vi shouldn't be corrected to VI.  So...  use your own mind and take Word with a grain of salt.

Blue
DeepBlueJoy
DeepBlueJoy's stories
Feb 11 2014 08:12 pm   #7slaymesoftly

Bumping this one up as it is still an issue for many people. 
(side note to CM, those two extra spaces that we were all taught to put between typed sentences are apparently now a big no no. I'm not sure what the reason is, but I've seen a lot about it lately on internet forums and punctuation sites.)


My first time posting here, though I am a regular lurker. 

I was taught always to put two spaces between sentences, and was surprised to learn quite recently (on a British-based forum) that it isn't considered necessary anymore.  It wasn't expressed as 'a big no no' though, it seemed to be more a matter of choice.  I type two spaces without thinking now, and it would be annoying to have to unlearn that if I needed to in a formal setting.   

I would have thought that two spaces would help to make text easier on the eye, especially in chunky paragraphs, but hey - what do I know! 


LOL I saw quite a discussion about this recently.  Apparently how much of a no-no it is depends on who you ask.  I want to say that Buzzfeed (?) hosted the original discussion, but I didn't see the whole thing, only the responses to it from people my age.  The Chicago Manual of Style recommends only one space at the end of a sentence. But it's a recommendation, not a rule. They suggest checking with the publisher (in the case of real world text uses).


Apparently, the reason for the change is that computer text is suppsedly easier to read that typewritten (on a typewriter) text and that the kerning supposed to be automatic. 

If you'd like to use 2 spaces automatically you can actually select it in word -- under grammar and style customization.  You can actually tell word to look for or ignore certain things if you look through the grammar and style list.  It's biased toward business writing on the whole, and not all of it plays well with fiction.  And of course, sometimes it's just stupid.  In one story it kept flagging 'foreman' (apparently sexist) but the character's NAME was foreman... I eventually went in and turned that off.  Still haven't figured out how to tell it that Vi shouldn't be corrected to VI.  So...  use your own mind and take Word with a grain of salt.

Blue


*nods* I've turned off a substantial amount of what Word wants to do for me. " Thank you, but I think I'll make that decision myself."  LOL
I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.